Marmara earthquake: 20 years on



On Saturday 17 August, Turkey marks the anniversary of the 7.4-magnitude quake that hit Izmit—around 100 kilometres east of Istanbul— killing 17,479 people, including 1,000 in Istanbul, the economic capital of the country.

The quake hit at 3:02 am on 17 August 1999, killing thousands as they slept. In Istanbul, several hundred people were killed when buildings collapsed. Since then, fears remain high with constant warnings from scientists that Istanbul, Turkey’s most populated city and economic hub, will be at the epicenter of the next "big one".

Turkey is among the world's most seismically active countries as it is situated on a number of active fault lines. Every day, there are approximately 100  minor earthquakes and aftershocks. In the last big earthquake in October 2011, more than 600 people died in the eastern province of Van after 7.2 magnitude quake.

20 years after the Marmara disaster, Turkey has seen an overhaul in measures to prevent damage from earthquakes, such as compulsory earthquake insurance and campaigns to raise awareness and inform the public about earthquake preparedness.

The Turkish Red Crescent (Türk Kızılay) has played a pioneering role by reconstructing the disaster management model from top to bottom.  A more effective, sustainable, applicable disaster management model was developed. Disaster preparedness, response, recovery and reconstruction activities were redesigned. Today, Kızılay has the capacity to meet the urgent housing needs of 271,485 people in a possible disaster with its ten regional and 23 local Disaster Management Centers.

Türk Kızılay is also stepping up its efforts to build a resilient society through a community-based disaster management model and to make disaster preparedness a lifestyle for every citizen. The Safe Living Culture which is being developed in tandem with the Ministry of National Education aims to raise awareness, provide knowledge and skills and ensure active participation in disaster response processes.

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